A Game of Numbers: Pollsters Go To War in Scotland

3 September 2013

On Sunday an opinion poll was just a poll. Nothing to be too excited by. Unreliable too. The real poll – the one that counts – is still a year away. So put not your faith in numbers. Disappointment that way lies.

On Monday the mood in the Scottish nationalist camp changed. Opinion polls now offered a persuasive and necessary reminder that Scotland’s on the march. A march that ends in freedom and liberty and whisky next September as an ancient country reasserts her prerogatives  and takes here rightful place in the family of nations once again. Polls are pure dead brilliant, don’t you know?

From which you will gather that two opinion polls have been released in Scotland these past few days and they cannot both be accurate. First a YouGov poll conducted for the (Unionist) DevoPlus campaign group hammered the Nats. According to Peter Kellner’s outfit 59% of voters are minded to vote No and only 29% to vote in favour of independence.

Not so fast my friend! The very next day a Panelbase poll, commissioned by the SNP, arrived showing that, actually, 44% of Scots intend to vote Yes and only 43% to vote No. At last! A pollster brave enough to report what it really going on!

I exaggerate but only a little. On Sunday, after all, one detected a whiff of panic in nationalist ranks. There was much chuntering and whispering and people asking if YouGov could be trusted. Had they asked the same question as will be posed in the independence referendum itself? (Yes they had, albeit with a preamble about “leaving the United Kingdom” some nationalists consider “loaded”). Was their sample hopelessly loaded with Unionists and thus an impossible reflection of what Scots really think? I mean, something had to explain this otherwise inexplicable report.  Panelbase, of course, are beyond reproach. God’s own pollsters.

Actually, it is possible that both these polls are outliers. YouGov may be under-estimating support for independence and Panelbase may be over-estimating that support. Even so, the disparity between their findings is striking. They can’t both be right, can they?

Of course Panelbase might be right. The race may be tied at present. If it is then the Union is in real trouble. It might even be doomed. If the Yes vote is at 40% or more a year from the referendum then – from a punter’s perspective –  betting on a Yes vote offers far more value than backing a No vote.

That’s because getting to a Yes vote is a process not an event. It begins by turning No votes into Maybes, then shifting Maybes into the Yes camp. And this is the thing: once a voters has completed the journey from No to Yes how probable is it that, having made this mental leap, they will be minded to move back from Yes to No? Some may do so (a mind that has been changed once can be changed twice) but I’d be surprised if that proved typical. It is more likely, I think, that voters persuaded to vote Yes will find their commitment strengthening as the campaign progresses.


Motivation matters, of course, and Panelbase’s polls are heavily weighted to those certain and all but certain to vote. (Nothing wrong with that.) Nevertheless, if I had to guess which of these duelling polls is likely to be more accurate I’d plump for YouGov’s findings.

That is, in part, because Panelbase’s questions also included these doozies:

Who do you trust to take the best decisions for Scotland: the Scottish government or the Westminster government? (Scottish government: 60%, Westmister 16%)

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: ‘Scotland could be a successful independent country’? (Yes, I agree: 52%. No, I disagree: 37%)

Those are respectable questions too (though I’d be worried, if I were in the Yes camp, by that 37% figure). But taken as a whole I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suspect that this is a poll nudging people towards affirming support for independence. Especially since these questions were asked before the main question on independence itself. That may not make this a junk poll but it’s still enough to make you wonder about it. (For what it may be worth, John Curtice seems to agree with me. Or me with him.)

Panelbase polls have consistently found higher rates of support for independence. This does not make Panelbase wrong, merely an (extreme) outlier. Even so there are other reasons to question their findings. For instance, they report that 45% of women aged 35-54 support independence and only 41% oppose it. Given the longstanding and extremely well-documented gender gap on the independence question this is, to put it mildly, an eyebrow-raising finding even allowing for potential small sample size effects. After all, as recently as March this year another Panelbase poll found a mere 25% of women (all age groups) in favour of independence.

So, if pushed, I would guess that YouGov’s poll is considerably more likely (though not certain) to be more accurate than Panelbase’s. It is certainly more in line with the findings reported by other pollsters. It is Panelbase versus the field.

It still seems probable that support for independence is where it has always been: stuck in the low thirties and that, after a year of campaigning, the Yes camp has gained little ground. Perhaps the looming publication of the Scottish government’s White Paper on independence will change that but at present neither side has conquered much new territory.

The difficulty for the nationalists and their colleagues in the Yes camp is that, historically, the higher the turnout the worse the SNP have fared. The SNP won 45% of the vote in the last Holyrood election but that was on just a 50% turn-out. They won only 22% of the vote at the last Westminster election when turnout was 63%.

Of course a single-issue referendum is not quite the same as either a Holyrood or Westminster election. Nevertheless it seems reasonable to presume that the 150,000 or so Tory voters who either did not vote in the Holyrood election or lent their support to the SNP will turn out to endorse the Union. Similarly there’s little reason, I think, to suppose that Lib Dem deserters (who flocked to the SNP in 2011) have been persuaded to back independence.

Which means that the real battle, as ever, is for Labour voters. It is not, I think, a secret that Alistair Darling is concerned that a Tory recovery in England strong enough to make a second term for David Cameron look likely might persuade Scottish Labour supporters to vote for independence. Nor is it any kind of secret that Alex Salmond dearly desires a strong David Cameron.

Labour won 42% of the Scottish vote in 2010. That amounted to a million votes. Most polls suggest that perhaps 15% of those voters are currently open to voting Yes. I suspect, however, that the Yes camp needs much more than that to prevail. Indeed it probably needs more than 30% of Labour voters to vote Yes. That’s not impossible though, again, it’s tough sledding.

Realistically, however, how many more Yes votes are there? That is, how close have the nationalists come to maximising their vote? If you support independence there’s been a party representing your views for eighty years. But that party has never won a majority of the vote, not even in low-turnout elections. To put it another way, if you wanted to win an independence referendum you would not choose to start from here.

Again, that doesn’t mean Salmond and the Yes campaign cannot win, merely that the odds remain against them. And heavily so.



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  • allymax bruce

    Mz Davidson, Rennie, Lamont; what a bunch of nasty hateful scum.
    Who voted for that weirdo Rennie ??
    Fife, get rid of that nasty piece of sh!te.
    Vote union, get nasty hateful weird scum!

  • tastemylogos

    it would be a great shame for scotland to leave the UK, it really would. scotland has an extraordinary history and has had, i would argue, a more disproportionate impact on the world than any other nation in the last 350 years! without scotland, the english enlightenment would never have come around when it did.

    somehow, you turned your back on the enlightenment and dragged england down with it. cultural socialism and the calamity it has caused for our societies would not have happened without scottish influence. labour couldnt win an election without you and the ‘centre’ would never have been dragged so far to the left either. thatcher and keith joseph did their best turn back the tide but alas, it was too little, too late.

    in conclusion, much like amputating a gangrenous arm in order to preclude the spreading of disease, despite the tears and the wishing that things could be different, scotland must be allowed to fester alone and give the english an historic opportunity to return to the localism and indicidualism that bound the communities of manchester, liverpool, sheffield, birmingham and newcastle in the 19th century. it was this enlightened socio-economic theory, catalysed by scotland in the first place, that made them the entrepreneurial centres of europe and ultimately underlined their greatness. with scotland this return is frustratingly impossible.

    • terregles2

      The Labour party only became a political force in the UK in 1923 with the first Labour PM Ramsey Macdonald. He had a very short time in office and was subsequently defeated less than two years later.
      In 1997 Labour won the UK election with a landslide majority of 179 seats. If Scotland had been independent in 1997 Labour would still have had a high majority of 139 seats in Westminster.
      In 2001 the Labour Westminster majority was 167 seats without any Scottish MP’s the Labour majority would still have been 129 seats.
      Since 1945 the UK has elected 8 Labour governments 9 Conservative governments and 2 coalition governments.
      Scotland has only given a Labour government a tiny majority on 2 occasions. In 1964 it was such a fragile majority of under 5 seats the government only lasted 18 months in 1974 Labour had such a small majority they had to form a pact in the LIB/LAB pact.
      Scotland has a tiny population far fewer people live in Scotland than live in London. We have a population of 5 million London has a population of 8 million the rest of the UK combined has a population of 58 million. To suggest that Scotland influences UK elections in any significant way is simply not true.
      It was a massive UK vote that gave us the dreadful recent Labour governments.

      • tastemylogos

        you are only half right.

        labour doesnt need scotland to win in the UK. but socialism certainly does.

        labour and the tories have to drag themselves to the social left to avoid being wiped out in scotland. indeed, the tories already are leaving them an impossible tasks to win an election.

        it is the english that are truly socially conservative yet there is certainly no doubt the tories can win whilst scotland remain in the uk and unlikely that any socially conservative party could win a majority with scotland either.

        it is in england where this backlash to socialist ‘progressive’ politics exists.

        thanks for your insightful reply.

        • terregles2

          I appreciate what you are saying but really nothing changes the fact that, I may have the exact figures wrong but Westminster government has around 600 seats. Scotland has around 50 seats. Of those 50 seats the highest number that have ever been Labour was in the Blair UK landslide where around 40 Scottish Labour were sent to Westminster. That number being returned has dwindled since.
          Scotland can never and has never made any significant change to what party governs the UK and indeed why should it?
          A small country of 5 million wouldn’t expect and would not wish to decide the government of the remaining 58 million in the UK.
          The Thatcher government was in power for 11 years and that was another example of where Scotland had no influence on the Conservative UK win and no influence on how the UK was governed. Once again I say that is not a complaint that is what we should expect as we are a small nation. It also a reason for the rise in the Scottish wish to go our own way.
          It really is a bit unreasonable to suggest that tiny Scotland dictates how the UK is governed.
          The 16 years aggregated period proves that if the majority of voters in England wish to have a certain government then the Scots will never and can never prevent that happening.

          • Wessex Man

            erm, wrong again!

            The first Labour Cabinet of Blair and Brown and I’ll let you off of Blair who was born Scottish.

            Gordon Brown, Malcolm Chisholm, Tom Clarke, Robin Cook, Donald Dewer, Alistair Darling, Gworge Foulkes, Sam Gailbraith, Helen Liddell, Calum Macdonald, Michael Martin, John McFall, Henry McLeish , John Reid, George Robertson, Nigel Griffiths, Andy Ingram, Gavin Strang and Brian Wilson.

            This tended to make it top heavy with Scots and every single one of them had signed the Scottish Claim of Right, you do know what the Scottish Claim of Right is don’t you? If it there been a top heavy English Cabinet and they had all signed an English Claim of Right, you would still be bellowing about the injustice of it all.

  • dougthedug

    “On Sunday, after all, one detected a whiff of panic in nationalist ranks….”

    Au contraire mon fraire. One good poll for the nationalists and the slew of articles rubbishing that poll from the unionist side is remarkable.

  • Alistair

    May already have been covered – but in their poll for UK elections You gov recently had the Tories at 26 and the SNP at 21. I can’t be the only one that thinks they just haven’t got their sampling in Scotland right. Which surely throws their referendum poll into doubt?

  • Daniel Maris

    The Scots will vote for independence in the referendum.

    Why? Because ultimately they are a hard-headed people and once the issues are out in the open the rational case for independence becomes clear I think.

    • tastemylogos

      as long as you take your ridiculously high proportion of the debt with you…. taraa!

  • HarryTheHornyHippo

    It is England that will decide if and when Scotland becomes independent, everything else – the referendum included – is just bread and circuses for the hoi polloi.

    • Terry Field

      Peppa Pig will decide – he is strong!
      And he LOVES fried marsbars!

  • Christian Wright

    Massie wrote: “That may not make this a junk poll but it’s still enough to make you wonder about it. (For what it may be worth, John Curtice seems to agree with me. Or me with him.)”

    That may not make this a junk poll but it’s still enough to make you wonder about it. (For what it may be worth, Unionist shill John Curtice seems to agree with me. Or me with him.)

    There you go, Alex, fixed it for you. Two Unionist jihadis agreeing with one another – whooda thunk it!

    If it isn’t a rabid Unionist expert you use to provide validation for your off-the-wall dingbat assertions, then it’s another extremist writer/talking-head (David Torrance more often than not).

    Seriously, who do you think is convinced by your referencing of another rabid Unionist theocrat to validate your faith in this moribund union?

    You cannot even articulate a positive substantive case for a prosperous Scotland in the Union as we move through the 21st Century, yet you still blindly assert one exists. Surely that kind of religious fanaticism has no place in this debate?

    You have been long since been seduced by the cult of Union and it has made you its pet jock.

    • terregles2

      Pet Jock…. just about says it all. He has tried writing in glowing terms about English cricket and all things English but he only seems to get a big response when he denigrates the Scots. Wonder what he will write about after Scottish independence.

      • Wessex Man

        This persons comments should be ignored as this person when making racist and inflammatory comments doesn’t have the courage to stick to them but goes back days after and edits them, I’ve got your number!

        • Wessex Man

          terregles need not worry herself about me stalking, Her views about Scots who oppose the yes campaign and their fate would if I were a stalker have me running for the English border!

      • Christian Wright

        Looks like you have a stalker terregles2. He says he’s got your number. Wonder if it’s Alex himself.

        • terregles2

          I am very flattered he hangs onto every word that I ever post and can misquote comments that I have posted from months ago. Wish my husband paid as much attention to everything I have ever said…..mmm……well on… second thoughts….mmm… perhaps not.

          • Wessex Man

            Why you naughty little porker you, you were for days denying that you had stated on another thread that “people who vote no, could go and live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland!”

            Being you, you first got annoyed and denied it then when you found the edit icon went back and changed it. I tend to remember things like that as I don’t like ethnic cleansing!

            Stop posting rubbish and I’ll not have to correct you, as I said three days ago you need never worry about me stalking you, I expect your husband is deft by now anyhow!

            Remember remember the 9th September!

            • terregles2

              You are really becoming obsessive now. I thought you promised you would stop stalking me and misquoting what I have supposed to have said. Now in less than half an hour you have posted another couple of outbursts.
              You are really making a fool of yourself now you should try and stop. I will make it easier for you. I will not comment on anything you post and I will ignore any other silly rants that you post to me. Hopefully that will help restore your equilibrium and banish your obsession.
              Please take heed of your previous posting advice where you said “This persons comments should be ignored.”
              Oh if only you would ….please do so now.

              • Wessex Man

                Now you are becoming a pretentious, obsessive, mischief maker, I wouldn’t stalk anyone, least of all you and I certainly wouldn’t become obsessive about you.

                I have never said that I would not comment on your original comments made before you found the edit button. You post comments about me, expect a reply, you stretch the truth, expect a reply, you make condescending remarks about my country, expect a reply.

                It’s a free world so far and if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen!

                • allymax bruce

                  You have a very disturbing ‘fixation’, you ‘target’ Scots, for interminal harrassment; don’t dismiss your neurosis, for free-speech, you need to get real psychological help.
                  I’m not specifically defending terregles2, bevause she’s Scots; she has ‘got visceral’ with me, as you have too. But her abuse is jealousy, where your abuse is an abberation.
                  I thought you were just the village idiot, but I now feel sorry for you; you’re mentally ill.

                • Wessex Man

                  I don’t target Scots at all, just Scots, who for some unknown reason think it’s fine to attack the English, blame we English for whatever mishap that Scotland may have had in the past and think that Scottish Independence is some panacea for all problems faced in this modern world in every thread here and become child-like in their reaction when someone dares to take issue with their views.

                  It’s so kind of you to think of me as merely the ‘village idiot’ and it rather proves my point. After some of the comments you have come out with in the past it could be argued that you too are in need of a little pyschological help yourself.

  • Malcolm McCandless

    Their is opinion and their is intent to vote. Previous Scottish only referendums in 1979 and 1997 saw turnouts of less than 70%, in each instance the Yes vote in both were in the majority. If there is a turnout less than 70% in 2014 the YES Campaign will win, it may be close as in 1979, but they will win.

  • JPJ2

    A truly laughable conclusion from Massie that YouGov are likely to be more accurate than Panelbase-only in his fictional and inaccurate analysis.

  • CraigStrachan

    I expect the result will be a 61/39 win for “No”.

    • HJ777

      My guess is that you’re about right.

      • James Kelly

        My guess is a 54/46 win for Yes. But my guess is also that all guesses on this thread will be wrong.

    • terregles2

      I think it is pointless and silly to try and predict the outcome of a referendum that will not take place until 2014.
      Events dear boy events.

      • CraigStrachan

        You mean the polls are engaged in a pointless and silly exercise? Say it ain’t so!

      • HJ777

        That hasn’t stopped you from doing it in the past.

  • terregles2

    i think most people take opinion polls with a large pinch of salt. They have been wrong so often in the past. I have had many debates recently with friends and family etc and I have never known anyone to pay much attention to polls.
    Anyone I know who intends to vote yes or no will go ahead and vote for what they believe to be best for Scotland. They certainly will not change their YES/NO vote on the predictions of any polls.
    Can’t really see much point in them myself although I suppose on the plus side they keep some people in a job.

  • HJ777

    The general rule should be not to trust the published results of any poll commissioned by one side of an argument or by someone with a particular agenda.

    There are several very good reasons for this, but the most obvious is the fact that “he who pays the piper calls the tune”. If the poll turns out not to give the result that you preferred, you can simply, as the organisation paying for it, decline to publish the results.

    • James Kelly

      HJ777: In that case, there’s barely a poll in this campaign that we can trust. They’re all either commissioned by overtly anti-independence media outlets, or by political parties/campaigns.

      • HJ777

        Yes, that’s what I’m saying.

        Let me ask a question. Has there ever been an instance of approximately contemporaneous polls commissioned by opponents on the subject of Scottish independence where the poll commissioned by those in favour of independence shows a less favourable outcome towards independence than the one commissioned by those against independence – or vice versa, of course? I very much doubt it.

        Having said that, I’m inclined to give more credence to polls commissioned by the media than by those commissioned by campaigns.

        The most logical thing to do, perhaps is to use a weighted ‘poll of polls’ with the weighting used to compensate for the fact that one side may have commissioned more polls than the other.

        • James Kelly

          That weighting is going to have to be pretty severe. Unless you count Wings over Scotland, there isn’t a single pro-independence (or even neutral) media outlet commissioning these types of polls.

  • Colin Forbes

    It’s difficult to see why the Scots need a referendum really: why would any of them, in their right mind, not vote to be independent of the hated English and the wretched ‘Union’ ? Why would any Scot vote for continued abuse at the hand of the distant Westminster government? Surely the Scots would have the courage of their own convictions in wanting to go it alone, to make of independence what they can and stand on their own two feet. It’s time for time to be called on this unequal ‘Union’ and for Scotland – and England – to flourish as separate entities, friendly neighbours but separate from each other.

    • HJ777

      Because there is no evidence that most Scots either hate the Union or the English, perhaps?

      • James Kelly

        Well, there’s certainly no evidence of a correlation between hating the English and wanting an end to the Union. In my experience, the complete reverse is true.

        • Colin Forbes

          Forgive me, but it doesn’t seem a terribly logical position – to hate the English and want to stay shackled to a distant Westminster Parliament? I think many Scots still remember mrs thatcher using Scotland as a test bed for the pool tax (and of course completely ignoring the outcomes!).
          But my central question remains – what Scot who cares for their country isn’t going to want it to be independent?

          • James Kelly

            “Forgive me, but it doesn’t seem a terribly logical position – to hate the English and want to stay shackled to a distant Westminster Parliament?”

            I’m just basing it on personal experience – thankfully Anglophobia in Scotland is extremely rare, but the few anti-English people I have come across in my life have tended to be anti-independence.

            • Colin Forbes

              Why? It doesn’t make sense – surely they would want to be free of rule by people they detest …If they love their country they must want it to be free??

              • James Kelly

                People who love their country don’t need to hate people in other countries, Colin.

              • GUBU

                Mr Salmond should consider using you to draft the questions for his pollsters next time…

          • HJ777

            It’s a myth that Margaret Thatcher used Scotland as a test bed for the ‘poll tax’. The fact is that legally, the deadline for re-rating of properties expired one year earlier in Scotland, hence that is why the ‘poll tax’ was introduced there first.

            Had the re-rating deadline been a year earlier in England instead, then it would have been introduced in England first.

            • James Kelly

              “It’s a myth that Margaret Thatcher used Scotland as a test bed for the ‘poll tax’.”

              Is it also a myth that she imposed it on Scotland a year early without any popular mandate to do so?

              • HJ777

                It depends how you define ‘popular mandate’.

                In most elections the ruling party doesn’t actually receive a majority of the votes. It’s true in most general elections and it is true of the last Scottish parliament elections.

                • James Kelly

                  But it’s also true that you’d be hard-pressed to devise any electoral system that would have got Mrs Thatcher elected in Scotland in 1987 on 24% of the vote – a 4% drop from her already dismal showing four years earlier.

                • HJ777

                  She wasn’t elected “in Scotland”. She was elected in a UK general election – and not with anything like a majority of the votes either.

                  That’s the way it works. Absolutely no-one voted for her party in Northern Ireland.

                  In my opinion, the method of raising local government finance should be decided locally, not by any central government. You can argue that no system we have ever had of local government fiance has ever had a mandate from the local electorate.

                • James Kelly

                  “She wasn’t elected “in Scotland”. She was elected in a UK general election”

                  Precisely. So we’re back to my original point that she had no mandate to introduce the poll tax in Scotland a year early – and certainly not when the other 76% of the Scottish electorate were voting for parties that favoured constitutional changes that would have deprived a UK government of the ability to do any such thing.

                • Colin Forbes

                  On this basis, it’s fair to argue that the ‘Coalition’ has absolutely no mandate at all as no-one voted for a coalition government anywhere in the UK! It was all cobbled together (‘Five days in may’ documents the process) behind closed doors aided and abetted by the Cabinet Secretary and his staff with nary an ordinary voter to be seen. Next time, maybe we should ask some ‘what if …?’ questions.

                • HJ777

                  Come on.

                  You’re not complaining about the Council Tax and that system isn’t under the control of the Scottish Parliament.

                  And what if a local government area wants a different system? They don’t have the choice, so whatever system is imposed from above doesn’t have the mandate of the electorate there either.

                • James Kelly

                  “You’re not complaining about the Council Tax and that system isn’t under the control of the Scottish Parliament.”

                  Ahem. The council tax is indeed under the control of the Scottish Parliament.

                • HJ777

                  The system was imposed by Westminster, not the Scottish Parliament.

                • James Kelly

                  And it’s now controlled by the Scottish Parliament and could be abolished by it at any time.

                • HJ777

                  Except, of course that it hasn’t been and most local funding is supplied by UK-levied taxes, not locally levied ones, so the room for manoeuvre is very limited.

                • James Kelly

                  I’m getting the impression this isn’t your area of expertise. Absolutely everything that the Scottish Parliament does is funded by a block grant from Westminster, which in turn is decided by the Barnett Formula. There’s nothing special about local government finance.

                • HJ777

                  Well it certainly isn’t yours.

                  The block grant is decided in Westminster, not in the Scottish parliament. People in Scotland do not have the option of reducing other centrally levied taxes and paying more local tax instead, do they?

                • James Kelly

                  “People in Scotland do not have the option of reducing other centrally levied taxes and paying more local tax instead, do they?”

                  ‘Yes’ is the simple answer to that question. I suggest you read the Scotland Acts of 1998 and 2012.

                • HJ777


                  There is no such option until 2016 and the powers of variation are insufficient to affect the centrally funded nature of most local government expenditure.

                • James Kelly

                  “There is no such option until 2016″

                  Apart from the already existing power to vary the basic rate of income tax, you mean?

                • HJ777

                  That would be the SVR that allows a variation of just 3p in the pound on income tax.

                  Income tax only raises just over a quarter of total tax revenue, so the difference that could possibly be made to local government funding is trivial.

                  Not that SVR powers were ever taken up.

                  You are very poorly informed.

                • James Kelly

                  “You are very poorly informed.”

                  And you’re a very poor listener. You’ve spent most of the afternoon arguing with things I didn’t say, or basing your own argument on false premises.

                • Wessex Man

                  Just as you have done, you have however tried at all times to fair. It makes a nice change to come across someone like you on these pages.

                  What does however get me is that all pro independence Scots seem to think your arguement is with we English whereas it other Scots.

                  In the last two poles taken in England about Scottish independence 65% and 67% wanted Scottish independence.

                • HJ777

                  Of course, if only I would just listen to you and take everything you say as gospel, then I’d learn wouldn’t I?

                  Where have I argued with things you didn’t say? Provide examples. And false premises? Provide examples.

                  You are living in a little world of your own where your opinion constitutes objective fact.

                • HJ777

                  My area has never elected a Labour MP and they always come third in the poll. What mandate did the last three Labour governments have to impose their policies on my area either?

                • James Kelly

                  Did a majority of the electorate in your area vote for parties committed to setting up a parliament with legislative powers for your area? If so, you have an excellent point.

                • HJ777


                  Schools and medical services, for example, were originally run locally – government just took the power to fund and run these without any local mandate.

                  Do you seriously think that the Scottish parliament would cede such powers to local authorities were the local electorate vote for councillors committed to running these things locally? Of course not, because it would strip them of much of what they control.

                • James Kelly

                  I think if there was a clearly-expressed desire in Shetland for legislative powers, that would probably be “ceded”, yes. You’re stuck in the Westminster mindset – we actually believe in this self-determination stuff.

                • HJ777

                  Once individuals start referring to themselves as “we”, then you know they’re suffering from delusions.

                  There is no way that the Scottish parliament would cede power of funding and running medical services and schools to locally – it would lose its raison d’etre.

                • James Kelly

                  “Once individuals start referring to themselves as “we”, then you know they’re suffering from delusions.”

                  Alternatively it could be an individual referring to a group he or she belongs to. I’m unaware of any group that can literally speak with a collective voice, so according to your doctrine I presume the word ‘we’ is literally redundant?

                  “There is no way that the Scottish parliament would cede power of funding and running medical services and schools to locally – it would lose its raison d’etre.”

                  I’ve explained why that’s wrong – if you want to stick your fingers in your ears that’s your own affair.

                • HJ777

                  “I’ve explained why that’s wrong – if you want to stick your fingers in your ears that’s your own affair.”

                  No, you’ve asserted that it is wrong – that’s all. You need to learn the difference between an assertion and an explanation (let alone factual evidence).

                  And you clearly are suffering from delusions – you can have no idea who else you speak for as I wasn’t aware that anybody elected you to speak on their behalf.

                • James Kelly

                  “You need to learn the difference between an assertion and an explanation”

                  And you need to learn the difference between an assertion and objective reality.

                  Call me wild and crazy, but I feel confident enough to speak on behalf of people who I know hold the same view.

                • HJ777

                  “objective reality” is clearly your name for your own opinion.

                  How many people do you know? Are their numbers significant as a proportion of the population or of a particular party? You are confident enough to speak on behalf of others without asking their opinion.

                  I am confident enough my views to say that, yes, you are wild and crazy.

                • HenBroon


                  Getitrightroonthemson you have the UKOKs on the run, they are dancing the headless chicken and keeping their wee meetings secret. Squeak squeak squeak!

          • terregles2

            I kinow many people who are voting YES in 2014 but I don’t know anyone who hates the English. Indeed some of the YES voters in Scotland are English.
            YES to Independence is a vote against being governed from Westminster it is never a vote against English people.

          • jdmank

            sniff sniff I think I smell shiiiiite? does my excellent sense of smell pick up a concern troll?

            • Wessex Man

              No it merely means you’ve got some stuck up your nose, use a tissue next time!

      • MichtyMe

        I think it can be confidently asserted that if Scotland was not in the Union few Scots would want to join in one today.

        • Wessex Man

          I think it can be confidently asserted that if England was not in the Union few English would want to join in one today.

        • FF42

          So what? We have a choice to keep the relationship or to separate, and accept the implications of the choice we make. We lose as well as gain if we become independent. It’s a case of working through the implications.

        • HJ777

          How on earth would you know?

          Remember why and under what circumstances Scotland joined the union and compare with the recent banking crisis which centred far more on the Scottish banking industry and which represented a much larger proportion of Scottish GDP.

          • HenBroon

            An independent Scotland would have been able to cope with the collapse of the Bank of Scotland and Royal Bank of Scotland a financial expert has claimed.

            Professor Andrew Hughes-Hallet has said that existing convention shows that the cost to Scotland of the failure of both banks would have been closer to £1 billion and not the £27 billion that has been repeatedly claimed by Westminster governments.

            Professor Hughes-Hallett explained that existing banking conventions meant that debts incurred by failed financial institutions fell proportionately on the jurisdictions within which those institutions traded.

            This, said Professor Hughes-Hallet, meant that Scotland would have been liable for only 10 percent of the total liabilities and not 100 percent as some politicians have claimed. Far from being a crippling burden on an independent Scotland the cost could have been comfortably dealt with.

            Speaking on Derek Bateman’s Newsweek Scotland, Hughes-Hallet pointed to the bail out of the Fortis and Dexia banks in 2008 – where France, Belgium and the Netherlands each took a proportion of the cost based on the amount of trading within their respective jurisdictions – as proof of the convention at work.

            Professor Hughes-Hallet also explained that the US Federal Reserve contributed to the bale out of RBS and HBOS to the tune of $600 billion because the banks traded there.

            He said: “By international convention, when banks which operate in more than one country get into these sort of conditions the bail out is shared in proportion to the area of activities of those banks.”

            Professor Hughes Hallett added: “In the case of the RBS … roughly speaking, 90% of its operations are in England and 10% are in Scotland.

            “The result being, by that convention, the rest of the UK would have to carry 90% of the liabilities of the RBS and Scotland 10%.”

            Hughes-Hallet was responding to claims by successive Secretaries of State for Scotland that an independent Scotland would have been ‘crippled’ by the banking crisis.

            Labour’s Jim Murphy and Lib Dem Michael Moore have both claimed in the House of Commons that the cost of a bail out to an independent Scotland would have been in the region of £27 billion.

            The leading academic described these statements as “misleading” and suggested Michael Moore may well not have known the facts of the matter when he spoke.

            The costs of the banking bail out and the implications of the banking crisis on an independent Scotland have featured prominently in Unionists arguments.

            These latest claims by a leading and respected academic throws doubt on the figures presented by Unionist politicians and commentators. It also underlines the need for rigorous and objective examination of the fiscal argument as Scotland moves towards an independence referendum.

            Professor Hughes Hallett confirmed that Scotland subsidised the UK and also described the perception that public spending in Scotland is 20% per head more than the UK average as “misleading”. He gave, as an example, the defence figures where the actual monies spent in Scotland was £0.8 billion LESS than the official treasury figures.

            Prof Hughes Hallett said:
            “The usual perception is that Scotland spends about 20% on public services more per head than the UK average…

            “Those numbers are very misleading mainly because the spending in that part is what’s spent on behalf of Scotland but not necessarily in Scotland.

            “The estimate for Scotland’s share, that’s contributions to defence, is 2.8 billion but it’s roughly 2.0 billion are actually paid out in Scotland

            “So there’s an implicit subsidy going south in that sense and you can think of lots of other examples …”

            Hughes Hallett added:
            “At the moment, on the current account, there’s a subsidy going to London, which is helping London.

            “When you get down to it, on the current account for the last five years at least, maybe longer, Scotland has had a current account surplus, which is currently according to the national accounts in Scotland £1.3 billion.”

            Asked whether Scotland would definitely be better off, Prof Hallett replied: “You can definitely say that it [Scotland] would be better off in terms of the revenue.”

            Scottish revenues and banks
            Prof Hughes Hallett pointed to ‘missing’ income that is generated in Scotland but is actually attributed to London, giving the Crown Estate as an example saying: “The Crown agents who take fees for electricity generation and give it to the Treasury…”

            Professor Hughes Hallett also destroyed one of the myths surrounding the bail out of HBOS and RBS claiming that their dealings in England would have meant that England would have shouldered a significant part of their liabilities.

            Professor Hughes Hallet said:
            “They [HBOS and RBS] have substantial activities in England as well as elsewhere and therefore the burden of bailing them out would have to have been shared in any case.

            “And there are plenty of precedents for that. The Dutch-French banks and the Belgium-French Banks that went bankrupt had to be bailed out jointly by the responsible authorities, and so it would have been shared.”

            Professor Hughes Hallett’s experience has covered many areas and range from international economic policy to financial market stabilisation. Apart from a wide range of academic posts with Princeton, St. Andrews and other universities around the world he has also acted as a consultant to the IMF, World Bank, Federal Reserve, UN, European Central Bank, UNESCO, OECD, numerous central banks, governments and other organisations.

            His comments will have strengthened John Swinney’s case that Scotland would be better off financially with economic independence. They also come on the heels of the assertion by former World Bank chief economist, and key aid to President Clinton, Joseph Stiglitz that successive Westminster governments had ‘squandered’ North Sea oil revenues instead of investing them.

            Listen to Professor Hughes Hallett’s interview here:

            SNP MSP Joe Fitzpatrick seized on Hughes Hallett’s comments arguing that Scotland is not dependent on hand-outs as argued by his unionist opponents:

            “Professor Hughes Hallet has confirmed what John Swinney and the SNP have been saying for years. It’s economically unviable for Scotland to remain part of the union and subsidise the rest of the UK. For years Scotland has more than paid its own way, only for unionist parties in Scotland to peddle the myth that it is the other way around.”

            As the crisis in Britain’s public finances deepens and David Cameron’s austerity cuts start to kick in, the debate in Scotland, in the lead up to the Holyrood elections next year, will focus on jobs and the economy.

            As the SNP government’s principle rival though, Labour will be forced to defend a union in economic dire straits and explain why voters should trust them to get Scotland out of a hole dug by Labour.


            With world-renowned economists such as Stiglitz and Hughes Hallett endorsing the SNP’s case and with London spending deficits ballooning, nationalist leaders will calculate that the burden of proof of economic credibility will shift from the SNP to Labour.

            • HJ777

              Except, of course, that he’s wrong – there is no legal obligation whatsoever for taxpayers in another country to bail out a foreign owned bank – and in most cases they did not.

              In any case, I was against any bailout and where would that have left Scotland had there been no bailout?

              The SNP has very little credibility on this issue:


              • Wessex Man

                Yes and the Arc of prosperity that the Fat Controller was fond of talking about a few years ago is never mentioned now, mind it did consist of the Republic of Ireland, Scotland and Iceland, ah well you can’t win them all!

                • HJ777

                  We don’t hear too much about Salmond’s plan for Scotland to join the Euro any more either.

              • HenBroon

                Ohhh nooo whit will we dae? HJ777 disagrees with imminent Professor. Professor Andrew Hughes Hallett, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at George Mason University and visiting Professor of Economics at the University of St Andrews; previously consultant for the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Federal Reserve Board, the United Nations, the OECD, the European Commission and various central banks, and HJ777, who to believe. Tough shout that one. LMFAO. Stiglitz, I don’t remember quoting him, are you drunk?

                Some relevant facts

                1) The banks were wholly regulated from London. They were only allowed to change the way they lend money by the Westminster Parliament who were following the neo-classical economic strategy of little or seemingly no regulation, and a no limits on lending strategy as long as the loan is secured against an asset. The joint architect of this economic strategy that helped to collapse the global economy was Alistair Darling now the leader of the ‘No’ campaign.
                2) 90% of RBS and HBoS UK employees were based in out-with Scotland so 90% of employers income tax was paid to Westminster, and not counted as Scottish or Scottish Government revenue.
                3) Likewise 90% of the banks national insurance contributions were paid to Westminster and not counted as Scottish.
                4) 80% of the losses of RBS for example were generated from the banks London based operations.
                5) As with all companies corporation tax is not considered regional and therefore the corporation tax paid by the banks is not considered to be a Scottish Government revenue, it is all paid directly to Westminster. Note: RBS paid £16 billion in corporate taxes from 1998 to 2007, NONE of this was counted as Scottish Government revenue.

                So if all the Government revenues associated with the banking operations in the ‘boom years’ were added to the UK balance sheet, why should all the losses in the ‘bust years’ only be added to Scotland’s balance sheet?

                In other words why did the banks only become Scottish when they failed, when they were quite clearly British when they were successful?



                • HJ777

                  You’ll find rather more people who are experts on banking (rather than economics) disagree with him.

                  You can always find an economist to agree with you whatever your opinion. That doesn’t make them right

                  I never suggested that they were anything other than British banks. It is you who wants them to be specifically Scottish because you want Scotland to leave the union (and they are HQed in Scotland). Did you not read Salmond’s letter?

                  You did quote Stglitz. Read your own post.

  • James Kelly

    “There was much chuntering and whispering and people asking if YouGov could be trusted. Had they asked the same question as will be posed in the independence referendum itself? (Yes they had).”

    Er, no, Alex, they hadn’t. This, in fact, was the tortuous and leading question that YouGov asked –

    “If there was a referendum tomorrow on Scotland leaving the United Kingdom and becoming an Independent Country and this was the question, how would you vote? Should Scotland be an independent country?”

    Now, then. I can absolutely promise you that voters will not be faced in September 2014 with a ballot paper that reads as follows –

    “This is a referendum about leaving the comforting warmth of the United Kingdom, and being cast adrift in the North Atlantic without food, shelter or warmth. But please note that the official question in this referendum is “Should Scotland be an independent country?” Now have a very, very careful think and tell us how you want to vote.”

    Moving on –

    “So, if pushed, I would guess that YouGov’s poll is considerably more likely (though not certain) to be more accurate than Panelbase’s. It is certainly more in line with the findings reported by other pollsters. It is Panelbase versus the field.”

    Er, no, Alex, it is not. The most recent Angus Reid poll showed a relatively modest No lead of thirteen points, which is slightly closer to Panelbase’s one-point Yes lead than it is to YouGov’s thirty-point No lead. More to the point, however, it is far closer to the more typical Panelbase figures showing a 4-10% No lead than it is to the figures from the unionist-friendly camp of pollsters (TNS-BMRB, Ipsos-Mori and YouGov).

    “But taken as a whole I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suspect that this is a poll nudging people towards affirming support for independence.”

    And what in heaven’s name do you think YouGov’s ludicrous preamble was nudging people towards? Studied neutrality?

  • MichtyMe

    Interestingly, when asked by pollsters, the majority agree that the Scots Government should collect all taxes and revenues and make all important decisions, if it walks and quacks like a duck… perhaps if the I word had not been in the question.

  • Malcolm McCandless

    The important point is that a poll conducted by a respected professional polster which has a good track record in Scotland has produced a 1% lead for the Yes Campaign. That is a first in this referendum campaign, and it may not be the last. Just think on that.

    On that basis you can understand pro-independence elation and anti-independence gloom. For the first time all the pressure is on Better Together. How will they respond?

    • commentor

      They responded by making a mock Scotsman front page with ‘Salmond Triumphant’ and a big photo of a smug (of course) Alex, with the message that “1% margin of victory is enough say SNP”.

      So, you know, the usual ‘this is all about Salmond’ mince.

  • commentor

    YouGov is the outlier preferred by those who want a high No – hence why devoplus picked it. They made sure to put on a leading preamble, to boost the No result.

    Panelbase is the outlier preferred by those who want a high Yes – hence why the SNP picked it. They made sure to put in a couple of questions the answers to which would put people more in the mood to say Yes to the indyref question.

    Both surveys are ‘campaigning tools’.

    So, in summary, I’m not sure why the article focuses so heavily on the flaws of the Panelbase survey, when these flaws apply to the YouGov survey.

    Hang on and let me scroll back to see Alex’s similar article poo-poohing the YouGov survey. Weird, I can’t find it.

    Also, I am not sure I agree with the concept that Once You Go Yes, You Don’t Go Back To No. I actually think there will be a feedback loop from opinion poll results to opinion. What I mean by this is, some of the Yes vote will be influenced (put off, even) by the likelyhood that voting Yes will result in independence.

    Yes voter confession: For me a No result would be depressing but non-scary. A Yes result will be scary, even though I plan to vote yes. This poll putting Yes ahead made me happy, but at the same time I gulped inwardly.

  • Forlornehope

    A delicious thought is that Scotland votes yes on a late swing and by a small margin and then goes on to elect a majority of unionist parties to the Scottish Parliament. W S Gilbert you should be living at this hour!

    • commentor

      Ah but in this scenario those unionist parties will all have magically become in favour of their country’s independence, like all normal parties in other independent countries around the world. So it wouldn’t be such an unusual eventuality.

    • terregles2

      Well if Scotland had voted for independence then it would be independent and if anyone wanted to stand as a unionist MP then they would first have to campaign for a referendum to take Scotland back under Westminster rule.
      After independence there will not be any unionist parties.

      • Wessex Man

        but we wouldn’t let you back in!

        • terregles2

          Well of course you wouldn’t. I was trying to point out how the comment of Forlornehope did not really make any sense. If Scotland votes YES then how could anyone come along after Scottish independence and stand as a unionist candidate? The union would no longer exist so how could anyone vote for a unionist politician when the union was dissolved.
          No country who has ever gained independence has ever returned and asked to be taken back. Why would they.?

  • NorthBrit

    You could always look at who was right at the last Scottish election.

    You could even look at the lead-in to the the YouGov question.

    But much better when the evidence is against you to contradict it with an assertion.

    This sophistry is almost poor enough to merit inclusion on your ironically named ThinkScotland propaganda site (which would have the added benefit that no-one would be permitted to comment on it).

  • Fergus

    Interesting commentary and both polls stimulate a lot of thought on the matter. Worthy of note, Panelbase was the first pollster to identify SNP lead in 2011. YouGov data is weighted to Westminster VI and poll contained leading preamble. Truth inevitably lies somewhere in the middle.

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